Thursday, 30 June 2011

MALARIA: Staying the course on malaria research


 Photo: Wendy Stone/IRIN
Lack of testing leads to frequent misdiagnosis in Africa

 Funding for malaria research and development has quadrupled in the past 16 years - new drugs, diagnostics and insecticides have been developed and a vaccine is in the final stage of testing - but the constantly adapting malaria parasite means the pipeline of new products and technologies needs to keep flowing.
A new report, "Staying the Course? Malaria Research and Development in a Time of Economic Uncertainty", analyses the progress that unprecedented levels of funding has achieved in recent years and warns that the future of the global fight against malaria depends on better coordination among a larger number of donors and ensuring that the money is more evenly spread.
Currently, the lion's share of research and development (R&D) funds goes to developing new drugs (38 percent), vaccines (28 percent) and basic research (23 percent), while research into diagnostic tests receives a paltry 1 percent of funding, and product development for controlling malaria-carrying mosquitoes (vector control) just 4 percent.
Partly this is because developing and testing new drugs and vaccines is much more costly than developing diagnostics and vector control products, but David Bell, head of the malaria diagnostics programme at the non-profit Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), believes it also reflects donor preferences.
"It's easy to sell the idea of a drug or vaccine because it saves lives. A diagnostic test also saves lives by stopping a child being given the wrong drug and ensuring they receive the right drug... but it's harder to sell that to donors," he told IRIN on the phone from Geneva.
Bell described his field as "grossly underfunded". This has slowed the development of new diagnostic tools and made it difficult to ensure the quality of existing tests for detecting malaria - in sub-Saharan Africa, where the use of diagnostic tests is not widespread, patients presenting with a fever are often misdiagnosed with malaria and treated for the wrong disease.
The report, published by the global health non-profit, PATH, and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, estimates that funding for diagnostic tests needs to quadruple and remain at US$50 million per year for the next four years.
Some of the most pressing needs are for the development of rapid tests for less common types of malaria; a way to screen pregnant women with low levels of malaria parasites that can still harm a foetus; and more sensitive tools for detecting a potential resurgence of the disease in areas with low prevalence.
"The problem in areas where mortality [from malaria] is very low because interventions have worked, is that people lose interest and there's a danger we'll see a rebound in malaria, so we need to have these new tools to manage that," said Bell.

Vector control neglected
Spraying insecticides and treated bed nets have yielded impressive results in reducing the malaria burden in many parts of the world, but vector control has been neglected in recent years - just when resistance to the one class of insecticides licensed for use with bed nets, pyrethroids, has become widespread.
"There are very few locations [in Africa] where there isn't [pyrethroid] resistance," said Janet Hemmingway, CEO of the non-profit research group, Innovative Vector Control Consortium (IVCC). "If resistance is sufficiently strong, a treated bed net is of no more use than an untreated one."
Developing a new active ingredient is a seven-year process because of the need for long-term toxicology reports, but IVCC is looking at several agricultural insecticides to determine whether they could be "re-purposed" for malaria control.
"We know there's nothing ideal, but there could be something that would hold the fort for a few years while we get some new active [ingredients] through [the process]," said Hemmingway.
IVCC is also developing a simple point-of-use test to determine whether a net has been treated properly, and another for monitoring insecticide resistance in mosquitoes - but even with a five-year, $50 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and a further $28 million from other donors, they still face a $100 million funding shortfall.

More donors needed
Total funding for malaria R&D reached $612 million by 2009, up from $121 million in 1993, but nearly three-quarters of that amount was provided by nine organizations, most of them public and philanthropic, and just two organizations - the Gates Foundation and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) - accounted for half of all funding, and most of the increase in funding in recent years.
According to the report, funding for malaria R&D only needs to increase by 2 percent per year to meet the goals agreed by the international malaria community in the 2008 Global Malaria Action Plan (GMAP). After 2016, earlier investments should start paying off and funders can begin to scale back their contributions. However, this best-case scenario depends on donors coordinating with each other to ensure funds are distributed more evenly.
The Roll Back Malaria Partnership hopes to achieve this during two donor meetings later in 2011. "We need to ensure the main donors are aware of the poor distribution of funds," said executive director Awa Marie Coll-Seck.
"We're hoping new donors will come along - it's important to diversify," she said, insisting that the goal of eradicating malaria from the world, set out in the GMAP, was still within reach.
"All the elements are in the pipeline - a vaccine, insecticides, diagnostics. The more results we see, the more we think it is possible," Coll-Seck told IRIN. "But the malaria parasite is always changing and adapting; you need to always be developing new tools to stay ahead of it."

MALARIA: Why Is Plasmodium vivax a Neglected Tropical Disease?

Plasmodium vivax malaria is a debilitating, sometimes life-threatening, and economically repressive disease of many tropical and temperate countries outside Africa, and yet it is perceived as relatively benign. The estimated cost of the global burden of vivax malaria is US$1,400,000,000–$4,000,000,000 per year [1], and more people worldwide live at risk from P. vivax than P. falciparum [2]. All age groups suffer P. vivax infections and endure repeated, incapacitating febrile attacks, severe anemia, and respiratory distress, with poor outcomes in pregnancy and learning impairment in children also apparent. Similar to other neglected diseases, P. vivax affects primarily poor people lacking access to affordable health care, trapping many in a relentless cycle of poverty because of loss of adult productivity and depletion of meager financial reserves [3]–[5]. Global malaria elimination programs are mobilized against P. falciparum, most likely because of the greater mortality rates associated with it, and draw resources away from P. vivax even though vivax malaria is harder to prevent, diagnose, and treat, and both species are co-endemic. There is a consensus among malaria experts that eliminating P. vivax will prove more technically challenging than eliminating P. falciparum [6], and that there exist fewer tools and a weaker knowledge base from which to start an effective global elimination program [7].

POVERTY: CHAD: The Libya fallout

DAKAR, 29 June 2011 (IRIN)

 Photo: Craig Murphy/IOM : Migrants arriving in Chad (file photo)

 Chadian families are facing worsening food insecurity, becoming more indebted, and selling off personal possessions as they try to cope with the loss of remittances from relatives who have returned home from Libya.
Remittances, which half of the households in Chad's western and southwestern regions of Kanem and Bahr el Ghazal used to receive, are down by 57 percent, according to a survey by NGOs Oxfam and Action Against Hunger (ACF). Households on average were sent US$220 per month.
Most families in the two regions have reduced the number of meals they eat; 70 percent are eating less nutritious foods, while just under a third are resorting to wild foods such as leaves and berries.
One in five households interviewed had sold possessions to raise money; while most said they had taken out loans to get by.
At the same time, families are struggling to feed returning members: Some 43,000 migrants have returned in trucks from Libya to Chad over the past three months, according to Craig Murphy, operations officer at the International Organization for Migration (IOM). In Bahr el Ghazal family size has increased by as many as 13 people, according to the Oxfam/ACF survey.
"These people are going home to zones which already experience food insecurity even when there is no `crisis', said Philippe Conraud, head of humanitarian operations at Oxfam in West Africa. "They need food, water - the basics, to get by."

Chronic hunger
People in the Sahel are chronically food insecure: In 2010 some 10 million people were at risk of hunger due to prolonged drought and poor harvests; almost one in five children were chronically malnourished, and 5 percent severely, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
A minority of families are looking to new income sources: begging, sending children out to work, travelling to other towns and cities in search of work, or harvesting their crops early, according to ACF and Oxfam.
Many returnees are determined to find any work they can. Seventeen-year-old Moussa, who just returned home to Faya, the largest city in northern Chad, after working on a farm in Libya, told IOM he would try to find work in a salt mine now that he is home.
Agencies - including IOM, the World Health Organization (WHO), WFP, UNICEF, and NGOs including Oxfam and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) - have been helping provide returnees with food, medicine and water at transit centres and in major destination towns such as Faya. Nutritional support, which is urgently needed, will soon be put in place, said WHO programme coordinator Thomas Karengera.

Many migrants arrived with measles, leading IRC, WHO and UNICEF to launch vaccination campaigns for children aged six months to 15 years. A national measles vaccination campaign will soon be launched to contain the spread of the disease. As of 19 June some 5,311 people had contracted the disease across 20 of Chad's 22 regions since the beginning of the year, with 63 deaths thus far, according to Chad's Health Ministry.
"We are vaccinating children as soon as they arrive at transit centres, so the disease should not spread further," Felix Léger, IRC Chad country director, told IRIN. Many migrants are arriving run-down, malnourished and dehydrated, he said, increasing their receptiveness to the disease.

Oxfam is considering cash distributions to vulnerable families but first needs to ascertain if traders have enough capacity to supply the markets.
Cash in fragile markets will not work. "We don't want to be in a situation where cash distributions cause prices to rise, so those without cash cannot afford the high prices. That could have a harmful impact," Conraud told IRIN. Only 46 percent of traders in Kanem and Bahr el Ghazal had over two months of stocks, according to their research.
Prices of some basic foods have risen: In Kanem's capital, Mao, imported wheat was 43 percent higher in April 2011 compared to April 2010; peanut oil was up by 44 percent, and rice 6 percent; millet prices had dropped.
It is still unclear how many Chadians are likely to return from Libya said IOM's Murphy, who estimates tens of thousands remain. The number of arrivals has declined in recent weeks, "but this could just be a lull," he said.

Migrants who had recently arrived told IOM they are being driven out not only by ongoing fighting and instability but also the loss of employment and fear of being persecuted. Fighters from the Sahel were reportedly hired early on to support Col Gaddafi, leading to fears among migrants that they will be targeted.
Some migrants may plan to return to Libya as soon as fighting stops, said Murphy. This may be the reason why migrants were left stranded on the road by trucks in Zourake near the Niger border, he said.
Donors and aid agencies need to step up, warned Conraud. "If more migrants need to leave Libya, and arrive in the vulnerable Sahelian zone, then households' ability to get by will be seriously compromised. Very few actors from the international community are aware of this situation; everyone is looking at the Libyan side of the border, but more need to look at the Mali, Niger and Chad sides," he said.

POVERTY: ZIMBABWE: Trophy hunting, crocodile farming help rural poor adapt

CHIREDZI, 29 June 2011 (IRIN)

 Photo: IRIN
Crocodiles skins and meat are big money earners

The mostly dry Chiredzi district in southeastern Zimbabwe will grow drier as rainfall becomes increasingly uncertain, but trophy hunting and rearing crocodiles for their meat and skins can become major money earners to help rural households overcome poverty while adapting to climate change.
In one of several initiatives under a project backed by the UN and government, elephants, warthogs, giraffes, buffaloes and impala - a type of antelope - are kept in an area measuring about 7,000 square kilometres and sold to trophy hunters licensed by the government in cooperation with the district authorities, while the community gets free meat from the slain animals.
"The project is now well established and the beneficiaries are building a school and a clinic from the money they receive from the sale of the animals," said Leonard Unganyi, who manages the project run jointly by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the government-controlled Environment Management Agency (EMA). "They have also bought a truck and set up a grain-grinding mill to benefit the community."
He said the project, which helps communities cope with drought and climate change, would be replicated in other parts of the country because 90 percent of Zimbabwean farmers depend on rain-fed agriculture and are struggling to become food secure.
Using revenue from community-based trophy hunting initiatives to generate income for sustainable development activities is not unusual. In the late 1990s, Pakistan pioneered development of the Community Based Trophy Hunting Programme (CBTHP), according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
Pakistan runs several such projects, some in collaboration with UN and nature conservation agencies.
Finding sources of income to build the resilience of poor rural communities to erratic rainfall in Zimbabwe’s troubled economy is a tall order.
"Chiredzi district, which has always been vulnerable to drought, is one of the many areas countrywide that have been affected by climate change. Households have been severely affected by rainfall distribution, resulting in poor harvests," said UNDP-EMA's Unganyi.
Even though we have a garden, we cannot sell the vegetables because there is no one to buy
Susan Chivambu agreed. "There were hardly any rains to talk about in the last agricultural season and my family only managed to produce a few bags of maize. Very soon that will be gone and we will have to scrounge for food, just like we have done in the last three years."
Her family has been forced to sell some of their livestock every year. "Even though we have a garden, we cannot sell the vegetables because there is no one to buy," she said. Two goats she would be taking to the market for the fortnightly sale were tethered to a nearby tree.
"Adaptation to climate change is a fairly new phenomenon in Zimbabwe," said Unganyi. "There is a need for policies and strategies that empower affected local communities."
Tapping into another lucrative market, 300 households in Chilonga village in Chiredzi district have set up a cooperative crocodile farming project, now in its second year and close to becoming profitable. Each member contributes to the food and upkeep of the crocodiles.

 Photo: Contributor/IRIN
Evelyn Hanyani's cassava crop, unlike the hardy cereal sorghum, did well

The villagers have benefited from infrastructure left behind by a white commercial farmer, including ponds, incubators and boilers. William Tonono, a member of the crocodile project, told IRIN that they were rearing 880 crocodiles, some of which were ready for market.
"Even though we still have problems raising money to buy food and medicines for the crocodiles, we hope that when we sell our first batch, money problems will be a thing of the past," said Tonono. Zimbabwe’s export earnings from crocodile meat and skins are worth millions of dollars. A skin 40cm wide is valued at US$9 per centimetre, according to Padenga, a Zimbabwean company that trades in skins. UNDP-EMA will help the cooperative to market their produce.
"Our aim is to make sure that the money we realise from this project will be enough to provide our family needs, but judging by our progress, we will be able to buy cars in the near future," Tonono said.
Another initiative gives rural residents an alternative to dependence on their dwindling livestock. Families where Chivambu lives have been organized into clubs that breed fish in the nearby Masukwe Dam. They hope to harvest the first batch of fish by the end of 2011.

Cassava and hardier grains
Other families have been given the option of farming hardier crops like cassava, and small grains like sorghum and millet which thrive in dry conditions, but the results have been mixed.
Evelyn Hanyani’s cassava crop thrived and she hopes to sell some of the produce to support her family of 15, but her sorghum crop performed poorly, partly because of long dry spell in February 2011.
"We cook the cassava every morning and use it as a substitute for bread,” she said. We also grind it to prepare flour for bread, and sometimes use the ground powder in the place of maize-meal and pick the leaves to use as vegetables."
Her neighbour, Tsotsowani Makondo, 40, a mother of nine, opted to grow small grains. "Despite the drought in the area this year, I am happy with my yields. My family will not die of hunger because I harvested enough sorghum and millet to last me ‘til next year," Makondo told IRIN.
Her children are not used to eating millet and sorghum instead of Zimbabwe’s staple food, maize-meal, so she sells some of her produce to buy maize.
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS-NET) notes in its report on Zimbabwe in June 2011 that staple cereals are readily available nationally, but prices are higher than the same time in 2010. Predominantly rural districts like Chiredzi have not shown improved sources of income for poor households compared to a year ago.
The districts of Chiredzi, Buhera, Mangwe, Bikita, and Mutare reported the highest maize grain prices in Zimbabwe. FEWS-NET said the trend was likely to continue to 2012 because of the poor harvests in these areas. "This means access challenges for the poor households in the areas of concern will have worsened, and more households will be food insecure."

POVERTY: Weaning countries off aidAid dependency

Jonathan Glennie  28 June 2011

Weaning countries off aidAid dependency can only be reduced if financial resources are found elsewhere. Uganda, for example, is using aid to improve tax collection so it will rely less on funding from outside donors

MDG : Tax in Uganda : Uganda Coffee Production And Harvest A truck offloads freshly picked coffee berries at a processing factory in Mbarara, western Uganda. Tax revenue in the country has increased as a proportion of government expenditure from 55.2% in 2005 to 67.9% in 2010. Photograph: Trevor Snapp/Getty Images

It is a positive sign that major western NGOs are beginning to talk about the problem of aid dependence and the need for exit strategies from aid. They are doing no more than responding to the concerns expressed for some years by their developing world partners and diaspora in the west.
But as they seek to engage the public at a slightly deeper level than just "aid is good", they need to be careful that their message is not commandeered by a simplistic, often rightwing, but now fairly populist agenda that seeks only to reduce the amount of money rich countries spend on global issues.
Reducing aid dependence is not the same thing as reducing aid. Aid dependence can be reduced without reducing aid (if other sources of money increase). And reducing aid doesn't mean reducing aid dependence – it might well mean the opposite. It is the dependence not the aid that is the problem.
Dependency on aid can only be reduced if the equivalent financial resources (and more) are found elsewhere. That requires action at the international level on issues such as trade policy, illegal capital flight and commodity pricing. And at the national level it requires a coherent set of policies to gradually increase resource mobilisation from untapped areas of the economy.
Allen Kagina, commissioner general at the Uganda Revenue Authority, came to the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) this month to give a presentation on the need to transform tax collection to, in her words, "wean Uganda off aid". Her message was clear: we need to use aid to support processes of improved tax collection, rather than allow it to substitute for the mobilising of domestic resources.
As an economy grows, as Uganda's is, a country will gradually rely less on aid as a proportion of gross national income. But that doesn't necessarily mean the government sector will reduce its dependency on aid. Some countries receive little aid as a proportion of GNI, but maintain heavy reliance on aid inputs in social and other sectors because tough political decisions on tax are not made.
The challenges in Uganda (and elsewhere) are many, and include, in Kagina's analysis: the difficulty of taxing the informal sector; the limited capacity of fiscal administrations; the slow pace of adoption of better IT; a low tax base coupled with tax evasion and fraud; the disproportional representation of some stakeholders in the tax base through the use of incentives; and a low savings ratio relative to investment requirements. So there are no easy answers.
Nevertheless, according to Kagina (who says she would welcome independent research to verify this, if anyone is interested), tax revenue has increased as a proportion of government expenditure from 55.2% in 2005 to 67.9% in 2010. Some successful reforms have included the introduction of one-stop border posts that harmonise immigration procedures, reduce transaction costs and duplication of efforts, enhance border security and increase revenue.
Kagina argues that domestic resource mobilisation is "potentially the biggest source of long-term financing for sustainable development and it is the lifeblood of all state governance, such as the provision of public goods and services". Aid still fills a gap, so rather than calling for an abrupt end to it, she asks: Is foreign aid to Africa promoting the strengthening of tax administration or simply having a substitution effect?
Crucially, she notes that there has been limited support from donors on tax matters, but where it has existed, it has helped. Since 1990, 15 African countries have formed revenue authorities with support from the IMF and the World Bank, including Uganda, which set up its revenue authority with the UK's Department for International Development (DfID) support in 1991.
Kagina wants to persuade donors to reorient their efforts towards always having an endgame in mind. In her view, this means spending aid on revenue reform and the productive sectors of the economy. While there is always a place for trying to influence donor decisions, we have learned the hard way how difficult that can be – domestic considerations weigh heavier in donor minds than developmental priorities.
Ultimately, Kagina's success will depend on how well she is able to manage the complex political maze she is navigating in Uganda, distinguishing the possible from the optimal, and managing change in a difficult environment. The slogan she has given her department is: "One team, one dream".
Regardless of specific countries reducing their dependence on aid, which is the objective all countries should be striving for, spending on global public goods by rich countries – and eventually by all countries – should continue to rise as a proportion of our national income, as an evolving world order needs money to run effectively, safely, and sustainably. So this is no appeasement of the rightwing critics of foreign spending. It is progressive development theory fit for the 21st century.

MALARIA: Malaria drug research funding quadrupled over 16 years

Malaria drug research funding quadrupled over 16 years

The research group Policy Cures has a new analysis of malaria drug research and development that brings some encouraging news. The report says that funding for research has quadrupled over the last 16 years. Policy Cures says the huge influx of funding has helped to develop many possible drugs for the disease. The non-profit group recommends that current funding levels continue. They warn that a drop in donations could prevent those drugs from ever reaching those infected with malaria.

From Reuters Alert Net, writer Kate Kelland unpacks the study on malaria research for us.
The malaria product pipeline currently includes almost 50 drug development projects, one vaccine candidate in late-stage testing -- an experimental shot called RTS,S from GlaxoSmithKline -- and dozens of other vaccine candidates in various stages of development, the report said.
There are also many new insecticide ingredients for mosquito control and a new generation of simple, rapid, and highly sensitive diagnostic tests, it said.
"In the coming years, the fruits of this unprecedented investment in malaria research and development could save hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives," said Awa Marie Coll-Seck, executive director of Roll Back Malaria (RBM), which commissioned the report. "This robust product pipeline gives us hope that eradication of malaria is possible."
She added that cutting funding now would be "a foolish waste of a historic opportunity." The total available for R&D in 2009, the latest year for which figures are available, was $612 million.
The report assessed progress against the R&D funding goals in a Global Malaria Action Plan set out by RBM in 2008, and estimated what would be needed in the coming decade to deliver the tools required to control, eliminate and eventually eradicate malaria.
It found that sustained, relatively modest increases are needed to boost annual funding to $690 million by 2015, and then called for a larger jump in 2016 to $785 million.

POVERTY: MYANMAR: Government open to microcredit expansion

YANGON, 29 June 2011 (IRIN)

 Photo: UNDP Myanmar :
A microfinance loan dispursement in Myanmar

Myanmar President Thein Sein’s statement in May that a sustainable microfinance system should be established has sparked interest among aid workers and those already involved in the country’s embryonic microfinance system.
The president made the announcement at a rural development and poverty alleviation workshop where he acknowledged the country’s poor are concentrated outside the cities and in need of assistance.
“We expect [from the president’s statement] that we would be able to work more broadly in the future,” said Maung Maung, general manager of international NGO Pact which recently hosted Myanmar’s largest microfinance project. As of March, Pact had 478,404 clients in 22 townships from three zones - Delta, Dry and Shan.
More than 85 percent of rural households in Myanmar rely on loans from multiple sources to meet basic needs, according to the UN Development Programme (UNDP), which brought microcredit lending to the country in 1997.
“The need for credit in the rural economy is substantial,” Akbar Usmani, acting UNDP resident representative, told IRIN. He estimated the present demand for loans in rural Myanmar at around US$340-471 million per year.
Current microfinance activities in Myanmar are conducted on the basis of specific authorizations provided to microfinance actors. These take the form of a set of Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) signed by the various microfinance actors with their line-ministry.
Microfinance is, therefore, not yet mainstreamed into a regulated financial sector, but is rather authorized on a case-by-case basis by the government. There is no specific microfinance regulation in Myanmar, according to a 2010 microfinance industry report published by France-based NGO ACTED and the Banking with the Poor Network in collaboration with the Foundation for Development Cooperation.
Both Maung Maung and the UNDP’s Usmani agreed that a strengthened legal framework could fortify and sustain microfinance lending in this agriculture-based country, where 70 percent of the population live in rural areas and about 26 percent below the poverty line, according to UNDP’s country-wide survey conducted in 2009 to 2010.

Guessing game
Still, no one knows what form the rules and regulations will take, and agencies are wondering how the government will amend current restrictions on lending from financial institutions. A law passed in 1990 forbade both state and privately-owned banks from providing uncollateralized credit.
This means all bank credit has to be backed by either real estate or by a fixed deposit account, which always worries agencies that rely on donor funds to run their projects.
“How can we borrow money from the [local] banks, when we have nothing to collateralize?” said Nyunt Hlaing, executive committee member of Myanmar Business Executives Association, which is one of the local groups engaging in the microfinance sector. “This is a big challenge in expanding and sustaining the projects for the long-run.”
In the absence of access to institutional credit from the private and public banks, the rural poor rely on relatives, friends, moneylenders and pawn shops for small loans which charge interest rates as high as 60-200 percent a year.
UNDP introduced microfinance to Myanmar in 1997 using the Grameen model of group-based lending in which typically a small group takes on the responsibility of repaying the debt. The initiative was originally implemented through several sub-organizations, but in 2006, Pact took over all of UNDP's microfinance programmes.
Several other government-sponsored groups, semi-governmental organizations and local and international NGOs have microfinance projects thanks to individual MoUs with the government.
There are institutional microfinancing lenders in 46 of the country's 330 townships, and according to UNDP, only 10 percent of Myanmar’s demand has been met.
Experts and economists believe that poverty could be effectively reduced if modern rules and regulations are implemented for the microfinancing sector.

MALNUTRITION: African drought pushes Kenya and Somalia into pre-famine conditions

Reuters in Geneva, 28 June 2011

Africa drought pushes Kenya and Somalia into pre-famine conditions
UN says that more than 10 million people are affected in areas of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda

A displaced Somali woman A displaced Somali woman awaits humanitarian assistance from local residents in southern Mogadishu, Somalia. Photograph: Mustafa Abdi/AFP/Getty Images

The worst drought in 60 years in the Horn of Africa has sparked a severe food crisis and high malnutrition rates, with parts of Kenya and Somalia experiencing pre-famine conditions, the United Nations has said.
More than 10 million people are now affected in drought-stricken areas of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda and the situation is deteriorating, it said.
"Two consecutive poor rainy seasons have resulted in one of the driest years since 1950/51 in many pastoral zones," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told a media briefing. "There is no likelihood of improvement until 2012".
Food prices have risen substantially in the region, pushing many moderately poor households over the edge.
A UN map of food security in the eastern Horn of Africa shows large swathes of central Kenya and Somalia in the emergency category, one phase before what the UN classifies as catastrophe/famine – the fifth and worst category.
Child malnutrition rates in the worst affected areas are more than double the emergency threshold of 15 per cent and are expected to rise further. High mortality rates among children are also reported.
Drought and fighting are driving ever greater numbers of Somalis from their homeland, with more than 20,000 arriving in Kenya in just the past two weeks, the UN refuge agency UNHCR said on Friday. It voiced alarm at the dramatic rise, noting the average monthly outflow had been about 10,000 so far this year.
Almost half the Somali children arriving in refugee camps in Ethiopia are malnourished, and those arriving in Kenya are little better, Byrs said.
UN humanitarian appeals for Somalia and Kenya, each about $525m, are barely 50 per cent funded, while a $30m appeal for Djibouti is just 30 per cent funded, she said.

POVERTY: KENYA: Tackling aflatoxin - if the price is right

NAIROBI, 30 June 2011 (IRIN)

 Photo: Kate Holt/IRIN : Aflatoxin is not always obvious, and maize that looks normal could actually be infested with high levels of the fungus (file photo)

A treatment that could control a deadly fungus, aflatoxin, from infecting maize is being tested in Kenya in a project donors hope will result in a commercially viable product with regional application, officials say.
However, farmers expected to buy and use the bio-control agent, known as Aflasafe, want financial incentives to rid the market of what is often an invisible attacker.
The UN World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that literally billions of people in the developing world are chronically exposed to aflatoxin, which causes cancer, suppresses the immune system, retards growth and causes liver disease as well as death in both humans and animals, according to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), a partner in the 18-month project.
Aflatoxin is not always obvious, and maize that looks normal could actually be infested with high levels of the fungus, which thrives under poor storage conditions.
Testing will focus on creating a locally successful hybrid of fungi, which, when applied to crops in the field, "crowd out" the toxins. Scientists expect to know by December 2012 which combination is best for Kenya, which has a particularly virulent strain found nowhere else in Africa.
But the project also needs to answer some key questions about how to market aflasafe.
"Can the farmer afford it? Can she see a return on investment? We need a mechanism by which she can recognize value,” said Prem Warrior of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is providing the project’s $1.2 million budget.

For farmers, the question of affordability and added value is central, and could determine whether or not they use the product, no matter how effective it is.
There is currently no quote for the cost of Aflasafe, since no one is producing it at scale, Ranajit Bandyopadhyay, a principal investigator with IITA, told IRIN.
However, Bandyopadhyay estimated it would cost a farmer US$10-12 per hectare. The average farm in Kenya is just less than 2.5 hectares, according to Acumen Fund, a non-profit global venture firm.

 Photo: Jane Some/IRIN : If farmers do not get higher prices for treated crops, some may not be willing to pay out of pocket for Aflasafe (file photo)

Steve Collins, chief of party for the Kenya Maize Development Project, said Kenyan commercial farmers could afford to pay but small-scale farmers would require subsidies to get started.
Wilson Songa, the permanent secretary in Kenya's Agriculture Ministry, said there needs to be a plan to take Aflasafe from a handout to something farmers can buy on their own.
He said the Aflasafe project would immediately "touch the lives" of the 46 percent of Kenyans who live in poverty. "Some of the farmers are too poor to buy the product," said Songa. "We will ensure that the product gets to them free of charge initially."
Songa said 450 trainers would be sent out to provide education and information to farmers.
"We needed a project like this yesterday," said Songa. "The whole region is waiting."
The Ministry of Agriculture also promised to buy up 2.3 million infected bags of maize last year, but did not, saying it did not have the funds. It is unclear where it will find the money to pay farmers to start using Aflasafe.
If farmers do not get higher prices for treated crops, some may not be willing to pay out of pocket for Aflasafe.
"The farmers take on the cost and yet they don’t always benefit in terms of market price," said Paula Bramel, IITA's deputy director.

Better yields
"We have been going out and talking to farmers to see what they’d be willing to spend," said Collins, whose organization surveyed 2,300 farming families in eastern and western Kenya. “They would be prepared to pay if they could get a better price.”
Collins said there was a good chance they could do so because protecting maize from aflatoxin also results in a better product, less likely to be rejected by traders.
Fungus-free crops will also yield more grain. Collins said yield per unit could be doubled, tripled, or maybe even quadrupled.
Paula Bramel, IITA's deputy director, said there is currently no low-cost testing method in Kenya, and the government does not regularly test maize for aflatoxins. For the 70 percent of farmers in Kenya who trade informally, even government testing might provide little incentive to pay out of pocket for Aflasafe.
"The only way it will get to scale is if famers have a direct financial incentive," said Kola Masha, the managing director at Doreo Partners, a venture capital and consultancy firm tasked with developing a commercial strategy for Aflasafe.
Regulating the market is key for this to succeed, he said, because it is the only way farmers would be able to profit from compliance. The only other way to create incentive is to turn Aflasafe into a product that also increases yield, for example by bundling it with fertilizer, he said.
Masha said a "very aggressive outreach programme" would be the final step in ensuring farmers grow and consumers demand aflatoxin-free crops.
Farmer Henry Zoka and his wife Patricia Maitha grow maize, beans, kale, and other crops on their farm 50km west of Nairobi. They are not sure if their maize has ever been infected with aflatoxin.
Zoka said the decision about whether or not to buy Aflasafe “would depend on the cost.” He said he would spend 1,000 shillings ($11.4) a season on the treatment. "We feel if we could get assistance it would be better."
But Aflasafe alone might not even be enough to combat the deadly fungus.
"There's no silver bullet in terms of a solution," said Collins. "That’s why you have to take a holistic approach."
Education, training, and communication about correct farming and storage practices are just as important as bio-control agents like Aflasafe, he said.

MALARIA: Determinants of bed net use in children under five

The following new article has just been published in Malaria Journal

For articles which have only just been published, you will see a 'provisional PDF' corresponding to the accepted manuscript. A fully formatted PDF and full text (HTML) version will be made available soon.

Determinants of bed net use in children under five and household bed net ownership on Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea
Garcia-Basteiro AL, Schwabe C, Aragon C, Baltazar G, Rehman AM, Matias A, Nseng G, Kleinschmidt I
Malaria Journal 2011, 10:179 (29 June 2011)

[Abstract] [Provisional PDF]
As part of comprehensive malaria control strategies, the Bioko Island Malaria Control Project (BIMCP) distributed 110,000 long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLIN) in late 2007 with the aim of providing one net for each sleeping area. Despite attaining initially very high levels of net coverage and net usage, many children under five years of age did not sleep under a net by 2009, according to annual malaria indicator surveys. The aim of this study was to assess the determinants of bed net use in children under five and bed net ownership of the households in which they live.

Using data from annual cross-sectional household surveys of 2008 and 2009, we investigated factors associated with sleeping under a mosquito net the night prior to the survey, and associated with households owning at least one net, in all households which had at least one child under five years. Amongst others, caregiver's knowledge of malaria and household characteristics including a socio-economic score (SES), based on ownership of household assets, were analysed for their effect on net ownership and use.

There was a decline of around 32% in the proportion of households that owned at least one net between 2008 and 2009. Higher household bed net ownership was associated with knowing how malaria was prevented and transmitted, having the house sprayed in the previous 12 months, having fewer children under five in the household, and children being sick at some point in the previous 14 days. Higher bed net use in children <5 was associated with being sick at some point in the last 14 days prior to the survey, living in an urban area, more years of education of the head of the household, household ownership of at least one ITN (as opposed to an untreated net) and the year in which the survey took place.

The big fall in bed net usage from 2008 to 2009 was attributable to the striking decline in ownership. Although ownership was similar in rural and urban areas, rural households were less likely to protect their children with bed nets. Knowledge about malaria was an important determinant of bed net ownership. Further research is needed to elucidate the decline in bed net ownership between 2008 and 2009.

POVERTY: SOMALIA: Cash transfers "a better aid option"

NAIROBI, 30 June 2011 (IRIN)

 Photo: SCDO : Conflict, prolonged drought and a series of crop failures have precipitated a humanitarian crisis in Somalia (file photo)

 As the drought in Somalia intensifies, with an estimated 2.85 million needing aid, more and more relief agencies are looking at the option of cash transfers, saying the system helps beneficiaries by giving them freedom of choice.
"Cash transfer programming is a very simple concept: give people money so they can buy what they need," Sarah Bailey, a research officer with the Humanitarian Policy Group of the UK’s Overseas Development Institute (ODI), told IRIN.
Cash transfers also stimulate local markets and support local producers, according to officials and beneficiaries. For cash transfer programmes to work, Bailey said, markets need to be working, "but markets are often stronger than we think".
She said agencies therefore had to understand markets before deciding what assistance to provide, "and cash transfers are only appropriate when the market can absorb the cash injection and people can buy what they need".
She said agencies should always choose the most appropriate type of assistance for each context: in some cases this would be cash; in others, food aid.

Across much of Somalia, conflict, prolonged drought and a series of crop failures have precipitated a humanitarian crisis, with hundreds of thousands fleeing their homes.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization's Somalia Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU), most of the 2.85 million Somalis needing aid are in the south-central region, representing 61 percent of the total population in crisis. But the area is largely under the control of Al-Shabab militias, and their perceived hostility to aid agencies means the delivery of food assistance is "extremely limited".
"The 1.75 million people in crisis in the south include rural, urban and IDPs [internally displaced persons], an increase from 1.4 million in January," FSNAU said in a statement on 28 June.
The spokesman for the UN Word Food Programme (WFP) in Nairobi, Peter Smerdon, told IRIN the agency's operations remained suspended in the south-central areas of the country under the control of the opposition Al-Shabab. Somalia's internationally-recognised transitional government's authority extends to only parts of the capital, Mogadishu.
 Photo: ReliefWeb : Humanitarian snapshot (See larger version of map

"WFP is providing food assistance [not just general food distributions, but also supplementary feeding, food for education, food for assets, school meals] for now but is exploring the possibility of using cash transfers or vouchers," he said. "WFP is feeding one million Somalis, but under a new emergency operation starting on 1 July will aim to assist 2.65 million people."
With security considerations affecting aid distributions, cash transfers present a viable alternative. In Somalia cash transfers are mostly through money transfer companies and sometimes via mobile phones.
Kate Churchill-Smith, programme and communications officer for international NGO Horn Relief, said cash transfers in Somalia, apart from being a flexible and dignified aid tool, also had other benefits.
"Somalia's pastoralist population, for example, tends to carry a large debt burden," she said. "If the aid community provides vulnerable Somalis with food aid, we are ignoring both their considerable debt repayment needs as well as their water needs. As a result, they may sell their food aid in the market to meet their obligations."
However, Churchill-Smith said if cash were targeted at the most vulnerable households, "they will use a cash grant to meet their most basic and immediate needs - and this isn’t always just food".
Horn Relief's Sanag Emergency Response Project benefits more than 8,000 households (about 48,000 people), primarily in northeastern Sanag, Sool and Bari regions but also in the central region of Mudug. It also chairs the Cash-Based Response Working Group in Somalia and has, at the request of the Working Group and the Agriculture and Livelihoods Cluster for Somalia, developed guidelines on cash programming. The cluster has adopted the guidelines.

Jawahir Hassan Ali, a mother of seven, told IRIN the food aid she used to receive from relief agencies had not been enough to feed her family and buy other essentials such as medicines and vegetables, much less send her children to school.
In February 2011, Ali's family was included in a cash transfer programme run by Horn Relief in her home town of Baran, Sanag region. Before she started receiving cash, she sometimes had to sell some of her food, even though it was not enough.
"I had no choice; I could not even afford a piece of meat or one tomato," Ali said. "Now with the cash I feel like a free woman. Sometimes I even buy shoes for my children, when I have saved enough."
The cash transfer had made decision-making easier, she said, adding: "I can now decide what is important for my family."

Inflation debate
Critics suggest injecting cash into an economy can generate inflation, although Churchill-Smith rejected the notion, saying the amount of cash handed out was small compared with the size of the local economy. "Evidence to date has consistently shown that cash transfers have no inflationary effect on local markets."
She said many poor households depended on credit to survive, and small businesses unable to repay loans could not order goods or were forced to close. "Traders are then unable to pay off their debts, which is how the chain of credit travels to urban centres. Cash grants act as local cash injections and have been shown to have an extremely positive effect on the local economy."
All aid assistance has the potential to affect markets. "Cash transfers can cause inflation and food aid can hurt producers by lowering prices," said the ODI’s Bailey.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

POVERTY: South Africa: Poverty and social unrest in South Africa

Poverty and social unrest in South Africa (map/graphic/illustration)
Poverty and social unrest in South Africa. Although the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Index ranks South Africa as a middle-income country, the way in which income is distributed across the population is highly skewed. Some 39 per cent of the population, estimated at more than 49 million people, lives on less than R 388 a month. One consequence of poverty and high levels of unemployment is social unrest. A large proportion of South Africa’s poor population live in the eastern half of the country, which is also the area with the largest share of black population.

POVERTY: USA: “Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.”

Charles M. Blow
James Baldwin penned that line more than 50 years ago, but it seems particularly prescient today, if in a different manner than its original intent.
Baldwin was referring to the poor being consistently overcharged for inferior goods. But I’ve always considered that sentence in the context of the extreme psychological toll of poverty, for it is in that way that I, too, know well how expensive it is to be poor.
I know the feel of thick calluses on the bottom of shoeless feet. I know the bite of the cold breeze that slithers through a drafty house. I know the weight of constant worry over not having enough to fill a belly or fight an illness.
It is in that context that I am forced to assume that if Washington politicians ever knew the sting of poverty then they have long since vanquished the memory. How else to qualify their positions? In fact, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, nearly half of all members of Congress are millionaires, and between 2008 and 2009, when most Americans were feeling the brunt of the recession, the personal wealth of members of Congress collectively increased by more than 16 percent. Must be nice.
Poverty is brutal, consuming and unforgiving. It strikes at the soul.
You defend yourself with hope, hard work and, for some, a helping hand. But these weapons grow dull in an economy on the verge of atrophy, in a job market tilting ever more toward the top and in a political environment that would sacrifice the weak to the wealthy.
On Thursday, the Pew Research Center released a poll that showed how disillusioned low-income people have become. Those making less than $30,000 were the most likely to expect to be laid off or be asked to take a pay cut. Furthermore, they were the most likely to say that they had trouble getting or paying for medical care and paying the rent or mortgage.
But at least those numbers include people with incomes. A vast subset is chronically unemployed and desperately searching for work. According to the Consumer Reports Employment Index, “In 23 of the past 24 months, lower-income Americans have lost more jobs than they have gained.” It continues, “Meanwhile, more affluent Americans seem to be gaining more jobs than they are losing.”
And the current election-cycle obsession to balance the books with a pound of flesh, which is being pushed by pitiless Republicans and accommodated by pitiful Democrats, will only multiply the pain.
Until more politicians understand — or remember — what it means to be poor in this country, we are destined to fail the least among us, and all of us will pay a heavy price for that failure.

POVERTY: India: mineral-rich regions home to the poorest of the poor.

Express News Service , The New Indian Express : Jun 26, 2011

ISTBHUBANESWAR: The paradox with India’s mineral-rich regions is that they are also home to the poorest of the poor.
Keonjhar, Orissa’s mining heartland, contributes minerals valued at about Rs 7,000 crore annually but half of its population is still below the poverty line.
In this context, the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill, 2011, waiting to be tabled in Parliament, holds significance.
Its path-breaking provision, which calls for sharing of profits from minerals with the local communities, could help change the face of some of the backward districts of the State, an analysis by Centre and Science Environment (CSE) says.
The profit-sharing concept, which has been introduced in the Bill, also for the first time in Indian mining law, says that a mine leaseholder has to pay 26 per cent of profit after tax (PAT) or a sum equivalent to the royalty paid during the year, whichever is higher, to the District Mineral Foundation (DMF).

Consider this for Keonjhar alone.
If the draft MMDR provisions were to be implemented this year, the affected people of the district would then receive Rs 750 crore as share. Annually, every BPL household in Keonjhar would have got about Rs 40,000.
The study, released here on Friday, stated that the profit-sharing provision, under sub-section 2 of Section 43 of this draft Bill, which has come in for stiff resistance from the mining companies and corporates, will not affect their viability in any way.
Had the MMDR provision been implemented in the fiscal 2010-11, the affected population of the top 50 mining districts of India could have got more than Rs 9,000 crore as share of profit from mining companies and the per capita benefit would have been around Rs 38,000. Fifty mining districts of the country possess 85 per cent of minerals and have close to 50 per cent of the total mine lease areas in the country.
According to the CSE, at least 2.5 million people are directly affected by mining in these districts.
Releasing the study, Chandra Bhusan, Deputy Director-General of CSE, said had the MMDR Bill come into effect, the mining-affected people in Orissa would have got about Rs 1,750 crore as share of profit from mining companies. This could be used for poverty alleviation, health and education.
Sundargarh, which produces minerals worth Rs 2,700 crore, would have got Rs 285 crore as its share of profit.
Former Mines Secretary Santha Sheela Nair, Orissa Steel and Mines Secretary Manoj Ahuja and Nalco CMD B L Bagra were present at a public consultation where the study was released.

POVERTY: Ghana: 30% are poor

21 June 2011

It is official! One out of every three Ghanaians cannot afford the basic necessities of life. According to a report commissioned by the World Bank, 30 percent of Ghanaians are poor, in spite of several years of rapid economic development in the country.

The disparity in the poverty range of the country could not have been wider. According to the report, while on the average, 20 percent of Ghanaians in the south are poor, a whooping figure of 63 of every 100 Ghanaians in the north have no means of acquiring the basic necessities of life.
The report, entitled “Participatory Poverty and Vulnerability Assessment (PPVA): Understanding the Regional Dynamics of Poverty, with particular focus on Ghana’s Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions”, added that so many people in Ghana are vulnerable and slipping into poverty.
The Lead Economist of the World Bank, Sebastien Dessus, told participants at the Bank’s Development Dialogue series in Accra, yesterday, that while poverty generally, was coming down in Ghana, it was rather going up in the north.
A Researcher of the report, who is also an official of the Participatory Development Association (PDA), David Korboe, stated: “The most consistent descriptor of poverty is the inadequacy of food supplies on a year-round basis, especially, in rural and semi-urban areas.”
According to him, in the rural communities, with particularly children, the elderly, disabled people, women and men, the report mentioned hunger as an experience characterising poverty.
The report, which described poverty according to communities studied, indicated that in the Shai area in the Greater Accra Region, poverty is “when you cannot feed your children without begging.” Even in the more fertile southern sites such as Alikrom, Atta-ne-Atta and Kokrompeh, the poor migrant communities from the north are afflicted by hunger.
In one community, poverty is also “when people cannot afford basic needs” such as financing their children’s education, healthcare, or the trousseau or bride-wealth needed for marriage.
Mr. Korboe, therefore, indicated that the sheer lack of income-earning opportunities during the long slack season was decried by able-bodied adult groups, both in the savannah, as well as among those who had migrated south.
The PPVA, therefore, identifies multiples of factors such as ecological, economic, social and institutional, as the drivers and sustainers of vulnerability in the north.
Touching on capabilities of the north, Mr. Korboe told the well-attended forum: “Frequent interruptions to children’s schooling adversely affect their life chances. Boys are frequently pulled out of school to hunt, work in the fields and pastures, or help repair flood damaged walls.” Girls may be required to skip school in order to assist their mothers in the market.
The PPVA further stressed that in the rural schools especially, the lack of trained teachers was striking, denying the poorest children the opportunity to receive competitive education.
Contributing to the discussions, Dr. Augustine Gockel, a lecturer at the University of Ghana Business School, said the sub-agricultural sectors were not driving growth in the agricultural industry, and therefore, called on the government to prioritise poverty interventions targeted at the north.

POVERTY: Afghanistan: Conflicts, poverty suspend Afghan refugees' return to home

2011-06-20 : Farid Behboud, Zhang Jianhua

KABUL, June 20 (Xinhua) -- Continued Taliban-led insurgency, insecurity incidents, high rate of unemployment and poverty have been main obstacle to delay the return of over six million Afghan refugees from neighboring states.
"Almost all Afghan refugees living in neighboring country of Iran prefer to return home country, but they were forced to stay abroad due to continued war, insecurity and high rate of unemployment in Afghanistan," Allah Yar, 60, who returned from Iran nearly three years ago, told Xinhua.
He made this comment on Sunday, a day before of the World Refugee Day which falls on June 20.
Living in a mud house in Barik Ab area, a suburban of Kabul, the bearded Yar complained that the returned refugees used to live in the community have no electricity and potable water.
"I have been living in this shelter provided by government and foreign aid agencies but potable water, electricity, health services are not available and the living conditions are getting worse and worse," Yar said.
"If the situation continues to deteriorate, I have no choice but to move again to Iran," Yar, the father of six, said.
Running a private bakery, Yar complained that the income is not enough to feed the family properly.
More than six million Afghans are still living as refugees abroad with vast majority of them in the immediate neighboring Iran and Pakistan, spokesman for the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation Islamudin Jurhat said to Xinhua on Sunday.
According to Juraht, a total of 5.6 million Afghan refugees have returned home since the collapse of Taliban regime in late 2001. However, continued insecurity has forced many to move again.
"Then as now, the major cause of displacement is war. Prolonged conflicts and instability in places such as Somalia, Iraq or Afghanistan, and unfolding crises in North Africa and the Middle East, are among the contributors to the current world population of almost 44 million forcibly displaced people," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in his message on World Refugee Day.
"For UNHCR, the operational environment is one in which the protection of civilians remains a major issue, but deep poverty continues as the biggest threat to life and progress. With Afghanistan's capacity to absorb returnees stretched to its limits, achieving sustainable return and reintegration is becoming ever more difficult," the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said in its official website.
Even though, Afghans are still suffering of endemic war and poverty, and the living condition is pitiful, many returnees have to stay in their war-ravaged homeland.
"Even living here in Afghanistan is very difficult, I prefer to stay in my country than to be a refugee in other countries," an Afghan girl Nasiba who returned from Iran eight years ago said.

POVERTY: South Africa: Education the way out of poverty: Motlanthe

Sapa : 25 June, 2011
Image by: Elmond JiyaneSave & Share EmailPrint

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said the most effective way of eradicating poverty was by encouraging young people to go to school and learn skills, SABC radio news reported.
Motlanthe was visiting Phillipstown near De Aar in the Northern Cape as part of his assessment of the War on Poverty programme.
He said a number of young people in the area who dropped out of school, had been identified and said when it came to education, immediate intervention was needed.
The children had to be taken back to school after the winter holidays.
An educated society was the key to winning the battle against poverty, Motlanthe said.

POVERTY: ‘Development schemes should eliminate poverty’

TNN Jun 26, 2011

LUCKNOW: The core objective of the development programmes of UP should be to root out poverty in the state. At the same time, it should harness the enterprise potential of the people living in small towns and villages, said RK Pachauri, directorgeneral, The Energy Research Institute ( TERI). Pachauri, who was in the city on Saturday, stressed on inclusive growth and development of the state.
The requirement is of strategies that target reduction of poverty. Going by the definition of poverty as given by Amartya Sen, Pachauri said poverty can be reduced by creating systems which provide choices to people or by creating the capacity to help people come out of poverty.
"I must say with some sense of pain that this was the state which led the country but now it is lagging behind," he said while delivering a talk on 'Sustainable development imperatives for Uttar Pradesh - India's most populous state'.
Pachauri has his roots in UP and that makes it easier for him to recommend a development model for the state.
He emphasized that the state need not only grow in traditional sense but also in terms of sustainability. Sustainability is the "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs". Lot of this sustainable development can happen by creating a culture and then building on it. "It can be done by involvement of people. You cannot expect government to bring a change as it will do what it is meant to do," he said. UP is endowed with agricultural opportunities. A major part of its population is still dependent on agriculture. The development model should work for these people while they remain at their soil. "Today there is a great deal of merit in focusing on small towns," he said.
Pachauri also stressed on creating conditions to attract investment in the state. "Investment will encourage industrial development and industry is going to be extremely important for growth of the state," he said.
The state needs to focus on small towns for investors and enterprise. In a state like UP, industrial development can happen by tapping the talent at the grass-root level, training them and making them into the best work force.Another sector where UP has lot of potential is tourism.
Talking about impact of climate change, he said every state needs to assess its preparedness to deal with calamities like floods, drought, etc.

POVERTY: Will the poor always be with us?

V V / New Delhi June 25, 2011,

Beyond the poverty trap

Is there an answer to the Biblical question why the poor will always be with us? Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, both developmental economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have now come with their take on this perennial question in Poor Economics: A Radical Thinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty (Random House, Rs 499). Their book, which is based on field studies and extensive interviews with the poor in the villages of India, Indonesia, Morocco, Kenya and other developing countries, has a single premise: “Leave the big questions aside and focus on the lives and choices of the poor people” to ask why interventions by governments or NGOs do or don’t work. It includes microstudies on a vast canvas. “Small is beautiful” techniques are then presented to debunk the conventional wisdom that big problems need big solutions to get over them. But to them big solutions that have been tried time and again are expensive, cumbersome, top-down that never filter down, and ultimately fail to consider the one critical factor that matters: did it better the lives of people in any way?
Poverty exists, they say, because of poverty traps. It can be poor health that saps funds and prevents the individual from working at optimum capacity. Or poor education can limit the capacity to earn a decent living. It can be lack of access to formal financial services that makes it hard to weather income fluctuations to make investments for growth. Since it is just these three factors that engender poverty, straightforward government interventions would be enough to alleviate poverty in any group.
Is it as simple as that? Take health or undernourishment. It is rampant in India and other third-world countries. We may not starve but we do live on a subsistence diet that is enough to carry on from day to day but not enough to generate the energy for sustained physical labour, which is the only avenue open to the poor to earn a living. Given the poor health they tend to fall ill frequently but don’t have the resources for medical care and medicine. Absenteeism is rife and work never gets completed in time. Money and access to financial help are real constraints but Mr Banerjee and Ms Duflo don’t accept them as a fait accompli.
“Some [health] technologies are so cheap that everyone, even the very poor can afford them. Breast feeding, for example, costs nothing at all. And yet fewer than 40 per cent of the world’s infants are breast-fed exclusively for six months, as recommended by the WHO… Chlorine tablets are often distributed free that can reduce diarrhoea by 48 per cent… Yet only 10 per cent of the population actually uses bleach to treat their water. Demand for mosquito nets is similarly low.”
This section gives a number of other health interventions to which could be added those in David Werner’s Where There is no Doctor: a village health care handbook. It has been translated into a number of languages and given gratis to workers in primary health care centres (at least in India). A wide array of preventive measures that don’t cost and are feasible to carry out has been discussed in the handbook. Yet the easily preventable childhood illnesses still persist, especially in the Hindi belt and the poorer parts of the country. It isn’t just a question of reproductive choice and vaccinating children but a whole host of diseases that can be controlled with simple instructions.
And this brings us to the nub of the problem — primary education and educators’ communication skills. To begin with, the poor often lack critical pieces of information and believe that things are not true, for example, on immunisation or benefits of education. This is particularly true in rural areas where traditional systems of medicine persist, especially where primary health centres have not been set up. It is understandable that in the absence of basic medical facilities villagers will fall back on what is immediately available — quack doctors who use local herbs and concoctions to provide immediate relief. If placebos help, why not, even if they are not a permanent cure?
The real problem with the poor is that they have to take on too much responsibility for their lives. This is easy to understand when there is no one to fall back on and even the nearest city hospital lacks basic medical facilities. The poor are not educated enough to ask questions and form the answers to find solutions to their problems.
But these ground realities don’t fully cause or explain the persistence of poverty. Mr Banerjee and Ms Duflo explore in depth studies and experiments that they and their peers have conducted on health, education, family size, financial access and other subjects. From these rich and varied sources they have offered solutions to the real problems, trade-offs and the decisions that the poor have to make to carry on in the best possible manner.
But there is one point that comes through: it isn’t just a question of lack of financial resources but a clutch of factors that prevents any upward mobility. And to this could be added corruption, or the pilferage of resources that takes place all along the line. How much of the allocated budget is really used for development and welfare? Even the poor can have deep pockets.

POVERTY: Bangladesh 'lifts 13 mlllion from poverty': government

(AFP) – 5 days ago
DHAKA — Bangladesh lifted 13 million people out of poverty in the five years to 2010, pushing the poverty rate in the South Asian country down to 31.5 percent, the government said Wednesday.

 Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, with an estimated 164 million people. (AFP, Munir Uz Zaman)

A nationwide survey, sponsored by the World Bank, found some 46.8 million people were classified as "poor" at the end of 2010, down from more than 60 million in 2005, said senior Planning Ministry official Shamsul Alam.
"It's one of fastest paces of poverty decline in the country's history and has been driven by a boom in remittances, welfare spending, exports and the huge growth of non-farm sectors in the rural areas," he told AFP.
"This is an impressive achievement by any standard," said Sanjay Kathuria, World Bank Country Office acting head.
In the survey, "poor" was classified as someone unable to buy food that provides 2,122 kilocalories of nutrition per day.
Remittances shot up to $11 billion in 2010 from $4.8 billion in 2005 while exports nearly doubled in the same period, Alam said, adding the government had boosted social welfare spending by 53 percent to $2.5 billion.
"Remittances played the single biggest role because most money sent by our millions of migrant workers went to poor villages. Garment factories, the mainstay of exports, also created jobs for three million poor girls," he said.
According to the survey, rural poverty declined to 35.2 percent in 2010 from 43.8 percent in 2005, while urban poverty fell to 21.3 percent from 28.4 percent in the same period.
Rural areas are home to some 70 percent of Bangladesh's 150 million population.
According to official statistics, some 60 percent of Bangladeshis lived below the poverty line in 1990.
Impressive economic growth -- averaging five percent annually through the 1990s and six percent in the 2000s -- saw the number drop to 49 percent in 2000 and 40 percent in 2005.

POVERTY: Ghana: Government must pay attention to agriculture to eradicate poverty – Kufuor

22 June 2011
Former President John Agyekum Kufuor Former President John Agyekum Kufuor

Former President John Agyekum Kufuor has reiterated the need for government to attach utmost importance to agriculture if the country was to achieve its first Millennium Development Goal of halving extreme hunger and poverty by 2015.
According to him, Agriculture is the bedrock of the country's economy and if the government does not commit to sustaining and formulating new policies for the sector, the country may fall back into poverty.
Former President Kufuor, who was speaking on Dwaso Nsem on Adom FM on Wednesday from the United States, was commenting on a World Bank report that about 30% of the population is wallowing in poverty.
In his analysis of what could possibly account for that situation, Mr. Kufuor explained that the country’s farmers are growing old while the younger generation is not taking up farming and unless they embrace agriculture actively, there will be problems for the country.
He also attributed the poverty rate to the increasing population, explaining that if the pace at which the population increases outweighs productivity, then there is bound to be an increase in the poverty rate.
He therefore suggested that government should pay particular attention to the agriculture sector, stressing the need for farmers to be encouraged with policies that will benefit them and urge them on to do more.
President Kufuor emphasized the need for government to help farmers access loans to produce on large scale basis and boost productivity.
He said during his tenure, his administration put in place some initiatives which included providing fertilizers and pesticides for free to farmers while giving them extensive education on new farming trends through Agricultural officers.
He said through those policies, cocoa production increased from 350,000 tonnes when the NPP took over in 2000 to 750,000 tonnes and now production is at almost a million tonnes.
The former President also talked about the Presidential Special Initiatives on Oil Palm (through which over 600,000 hectares of oil palm trees were planted), cassava and others whose initiation, he said, people scoffed at but went a long way to encourage production on a large scale.
He said since times are changing and innovations are coming up, government should also study the new ways of doing things and implement them in the country.
He called for a critically look at planned parenthood to help manage the rate at which the population is increasing.
The World Food Prize Foundation honoured former President Kufuor, and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, former president of Brazil, for creating and implementing government policies that alleviated hunger and poverty in their countries.
President Kufuor while commenting on the honour said he had not expected to receive that honour although he had taken steps to help eradicate poverty.
He said he put in place policies especially in the Agriculture sector which went a long way to help halve extreme poverty adding that now Ghana is considered as a leading light in achieving the Millennium Development Goal 1 by 2015.

POVERTY: Poverty and Terrorism

Charles Mudede Jun 13, 2011
We are always talking about the God-crazy Islamic terrorists of Pakistan. We are quick to point to religion as the source of the chaos. We only see extreme Islam and not the extreme poverty of Pakistan.

ISLAMABAD: The Government of Pakistan is shying away from disclosing figures on poverty. The government has plenty of reasons to do just that.
On 25 March 2008, the day Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani was taking oath of office, there were an estimated 47.1 million Pakistanis living in extreme poverty. Over the past three years an average of 25,000 Pakistanis per day - every single day of the past three years - have been driven into extreme poverty. The total now stands at an estimated 72.9 million under the poverty line, meaning that three years of the PPP-led government has shoved an additional 25.7 million into abject poverty.
Living below poverty line means making dreadful choices-a choice between feeding your daughter and buying medicine for your ailing mother. Living below poverty means uncertainty-uncertainty of where your next meal would come from.
We now have 72.9 million Pakistanis, 41.2 percent of the total, who are ending up spending up to 70 percent of their entire budget on food.

The violence in Pakistan is not unrelated to this poverty. Therefore, the solution to the violence is not more drones or more military aid. You get my point.

POVERTY: World Poverty Measurements Misleading

Friday, June 17, 2011 : Inter Press Service

In 2004, the World Bank stated that just under 1,0 billion people were living in poverty, only to later claim in 2005 that the number was close to 1.4 billion, Dr.Jomo Kwame Sundaram explained to his audience here.
His new book 'Poor Poverty' points out that poverty measurement results from different sources are producing very different results. There are even irregularities within individual sources. Without truly accurate analysis, poverty reduction becomes even more complicated.
The new release also discusses what Dr. Sundaram described as, 'silver bullets.' Micro credit, land ownership and good governance all fell under this term as attempts for easier solutions to poverty. Although Dr. Sundaram went on to say that 'Poor Poverty' 'does not have a single, unique solution to the problem, different countries require different solutions.'
This was explained at a panel discussion that took place Wednesday to mark the book launch of 'Poor Poverty: The impoverishment of analysis, measurement and policies.' The event was organized by the UN Academic Impact in collaboration with the UN bookshop. The book’s editors, Dr. Sundaram and Dr. Anis Chowdhury were on the panel, along with Professor Julian May of University of KwaZulu-Natal, who was linked by video-conference from South Africa.
An additional theme the book discusses is the idea of universalism. It was explained at the debate, that a universal approach to poverty reduction rather than targeting the most poor for help is more efficient and hence, effective.
Universalism, such as free primary education appears less like charity and is fairer to the country involved. Targeting the neediest is expensive and these people are often accidently overlooked nonetheless.
The editors also covered the books beliefs on aid. Dr. Sundaram pointed out that 'Aid is not always the best solution because governments in the nations involved don’t always decide how it is used.' What these countries need is fiscal space to be able to tackle their problems. According to Dr. Chowdhury, 'these nations aren’t able to freely do this due to this due to the fiscal and debt crisis of the 1980’s.'
Professor May in South Africa compared the work to Dr.Banerjee and Dr.Duflo’s book 'Poor Economics' in that they both criticize the ineffective shortcuts to poverty reduction. However he stated that he found that 'Poor Poverty' offered more hope for the future if it’s suggestions are taken on board.

POVERTY: USA vs UK: How to Cut Child Poverty in Half

June 13, 2011 : NANCY FOLBRE [Nancy Folbre is an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.]

Cutting child poverty in half sounds like a magician’s trick, or some miracle of rapid economic growth. But Britain has used standard policy tools to reduce its child-poverty rate by more than half since 1994 and has effectively defended this progress against the pressures of the Great Recession.
By contrast, the child poverty rate has trended upward in the United States since 2000, and children have proved economically vulnerable to increased unemployment.
Most other rich countries rate higher on indicators of child well-being than either Britain or the United States. But we have more in common with Britain than most other countries, and rightfully pay closer attention to it.
The contours of British success are detailed in “Britain’s War on Poverty,” a compelling book by Jane Waldfogel of Columbia University. An updated summary has been published online by two nonprofit groups that have long pressed for more attention to these issues: First Focus and the Foundation for Child Development, on whose board I serve. (Professor Waldfogel was also the subject of a recent Book Chat on this blog.)
The ordinary policies in Britain that led to what many Americans would consider extraordinary results were these: an increase in the national minimum wage (currently about $9.70 an hour, compared with our $7.25), tax incentives to encourage single parents to move into paid employment, increased public benefits for parents, provision of universal preschool and regulations making it easier for parents of young children to request flexible work schedules.
Many similar, though less generous policies are already in effect in the United States, at the federal or state level. Indeed, the title of Professor Waldfogel’s book evokes President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, while Britain’s New Deal for Lone Parents sounds Rooseveltian. The Sure Start program, focusing on social and educational services to young children in low-income families, resembles our Head Start program.
In short, just as the British have built on our examples, we could easily build on theirs. Do we simply lack the political will, or is it harder in the United States to translate this political will into legislative action?
A survey commissioned by First Focus in April suggests that most Americans worry that children fare poorly and oppose cuts in federal spending that could hurt them. But even strongly voiced concerns about poverty are difficult to hear over the cacophony of fierce debate on budget cuts and government spending.
Britain has a longer history of universal programs, such as national health insurance and paid parental leave, that may have created a stronger political commitment to public spending.
Under Tony Blair’s leadership, the Labour Party government that came to power in 1997 took a more decisive stand on child poverty than our Democratic Party. Professor Waldfogel suggests that concerns about child poverty have been — and remain — stronger across the political spectrum in Britain, with the new coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats promising to leave poor children unharmed by planned major cuts in social spending.
Recent cuts in once-universal child benefits (on the grounds that the country can’t afford to subsidize high-income parents) reflect some growing tensions. Continuing political debate in Britain suggests that income cutoffs for eligibility raise issues of fairness and may foster political resentment toward low-income families.
Racial and ethnic diversity in Britain has increased considerably in recent years as a result of increased immigration, and Professor Waldfogel notes that poverty among children is highest among those of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin, just as it is highest in the United States among black and Hispanic children.
Income inequality has increased in Britain in recent years, as it has in the United States. As a result, declines in absolute poverty among children have not been matched by declines in the relative poverty of children’s families, defined as a percentage of median family income.
Still, Britain has made distinct and admirable progress. While the future of its efforts to reduce child poverty remains uncertain, Britain’s recent history vindicates the hope that we can find both the will and the way to do better here.
First Focus, in conjunction with Senator Bob Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania, and the Foundation for Child Development, plans a Congressional briefing on these issues on June 16.

POVERTY: Islamic Microfinance Model to help alleviate poverty


Speakers at a seminar here called for following interest free Islamic microfinance model in order to eliminate poverty from the country. The seminar was organized on Monday by Al-Huda Centre of Islamic Banking & Economics (CIBE) and AKHUWAT.
The aim of the seminar was to choke out the plan of poverty alleviation on national and international scale to lessen poverty, social welfare and to tackle other problems pertaining to it.
Delegates from Malaysia, Yemen, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Mauritius and other countries participated in the event who spoke on various topics of Islamic microfinance i.e. methodology of poverty reduction, Zakat, Shariah implications, Dard-e-Hasna, Waqf models, latest trends of Islamic microfinance, technological application of poverty alleviation and usage of Islamic microfinance in non muslim societies.
Speakers said poverty has risen as one of the most crucial problems of the decade hitching fastest development of the countries on national and international level.
Islam is the only religion that takes the responsibility of poverty alleviation as one of its main obligations. Zakat, Ushar, Waqaf, Fitrana, Qard-e-Hasna, Murabaha, Ijarah, Musharaka etc have the qualities to sustain society from the plague of poverty.
“This was the major reason of worldwide recognition of Islamic microfinance as a sustainable source of lessening poverty from the society.
It is a pleasurable factor that more than 2 million beneficiaries are taking the edge of Islamic microfinance worldwide”, speakers added.
Speakers said that internationally, microfinance was considered a viable prospective to alleviate poverty but its sustainability was related to high interest rates. “Islamic Microfinance Model like Akhuwat interest-free micro-lending is not less than a miracle as it has proven all the existing viewpoints regarding microfinance wrong by providing interest free funding to the poor”, Athar Axeem Khan, an economist said.
Dr. Amjad Saqib, Executive Director Akhuwat said that so far the organization has provided funding in the shape of Qarz-e-Hasna worth of Rs. 1.1 billion to 94,000 families. He said that the recovery percentage remained 99.85 per cent.

POVERTY: UK: 1.6m British Children In Extreme Poverty

June 18, 2011
A growing number of children in the UK are living in extreme poverty because of huge increases in the cost of energy, petrol and food, according to a leading charity.
Save the Children says the figure has risen to 1.6 million, with 290,000 in London.
The rising cost of living and a slow economic recovery has left thousands of families struggling to pay for even the basics.
A family of four has seen their weekly food bill of £100 increase by £5 since last year, according to the British Retail Consortium.
Gas prices are set to rise 19% from August
Julie Henry knows the real cost of rising food and fuel prices, with four hildren and just £108 a week in benefits to cover all the family bills.
She is constantly on the look out for bargains and sadly that means no money left to give the children treats.
She told Sky News: "Not everybody can go on holiday and it makes me feel guilty.
You have no choice but to eat and drink.
Harry Wallop, Consumer Editor of the Telegraph
"I already feel guilty for using the money to pay the bills, but already the rent and the bills in the house are big. Maybe in the future they (children) will go on holiday."
In May, petrol prices rose to a record 137p per litre for unleaded and 142p for diesel.
Scottish power recently revealed gas prices are expected to rise by 19% from August and electricity by 10% - with more suppliers expected to follow.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics shows a loaf of bread costs 50% more than five years ago, while butter is up 57.7% and milk 33%.
Rising cost of living has left many children living in severe poverty
Droughts across Britain and Europe are likely to make food even more expensive.
And the fall in the value of the pound means the cost of imported food and other products are also soaring.
Harry Wallop, Consumer Editor of the Daily Telegraph, said that while inflation is affecting everyone, it is hitting those on low incomes hardest.
Figures show the cost of a loaf of bread has doubled since 2006
"You have no choice but to eat and drink," he said
"So if you have a relatively small income because you've been made unemployed, you've not been paid well or you've suffered from a pay freeze, then obviously it's going to hit you harder."
Last year over 61,000 people across the UK turned to food banks for help.
The food parcels they are given have enough ingredients to make meals for three days.
Petrol rose to a record 137p per litre for unleaded in May
Daphine Aikens, who works at a West London Foodbank said: "We have had people say to us that it has made then, or made other people, turn to crime to get food.
"They get hungry, people who come here haven't eaten for a few days."We've seen people who have just been struggling so much that when we have given them the food, they have cried."

POVERTY: Seven million Syrians living in poverty

Doron Peskin : 06.18.11

Years of neglect, corruption and lack of economic planning prompt popular protest, undeterred by regime's power. As President Assad tries to conceal depth of distress, residents overcome their fear after realizing they have nothing left to lose
The current anti-government riots in Syria stem from political, social, factional and economic motives. Years of international isolation, neglect, corruption and lack of economic planning have taken their toll.
The economic distress which only grew worse, especially in light of the global financial crisis and price hikes, broke loose after seeing the sparkle emerging from Tunisia and Egypt.
There is no doubt that the Syrian regime is relying on fear to silence the popular protest, as we have been witnessing since mid March. At the moment it seems that the protestors taking to the streets are mainly those who feel they have nothing left to lose.
Even before the current crisis, the Syrian authorities attempted to conceal the depth of the distress and poverty in the country. Last year, the government buried the findings of a report prepared together with the United Nations Development Program, titled "Indicators of poverty and division of income in Syria".
According to the study, the number of Syrians living under the poverty line reached 34% in 2004-2007 – i.e. one in every three Syrians lives in poverty. In absolute numbers we are talking about close to seven million people. More than 12% of the Syrian population – 2.5 million people – live in "shameful" poverty conditions.

Geographical poverty
The Syrian poverty has faces and names and a geographical division, and the periphery areas are the poorest in the country. Some 50% of Syria's poor are concentrated in these areas, and about 56% of them live in shameful poverty conditions. The Bashar Assad regime has banned the publication of these figures.
According to the findings, the northeastern part of the country is the poorest (the Kurdish areas of Hasaka and Kamishli). It is followed by the southern area, with Daraa at its center, which has become the focus of the current riots. In this area, researchers have found, the per capita spending was lower than the average spending of Syria's poor.
Several months ago, the newspaper of Rami Makhlouf, one of Syria's wealthiest people who is despised by the public, published data on the Syrian labor market. The figures published were biased, but those which were not presented can teach us about the situation.
According to the report, about 20% of the people employed in the country concentrated in the city of Aleppo. Daraa, the epicenter of the riots, is at the bottom of the list with about 4% of employed.
The article refrained from providing unemployment figures, but noted that it was high "among the young". Unofficial estimates put the unemployment rate among young Syrians at around 30%.
The Syrian leadership is familiar with all these data, but hoped that the massacre in the city of Hama about 30 years ago, in which the regime killed tens of thousands of residents, would help repress them. That didn't happen,7340,L-4083554,00.html